Cover image for Theology in America : Christian thought from the age of the Puritans to the Civil War
Theology in America : Christian thought from the age of the Puritans to the Civil War
Holifield, E. Brooks.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
ix, 617 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BT30.U6 H65 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BT30.U6 H65 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BT30.U6 H65 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



This volume is a comprehensive survey of early American Christian theology which encompasses scores of American theological traditions, schools of thought, and thinkers. those of more marginal groups. He looks closely at the intricacies of American theology from 1636 to 1865 and considers the social and institutional settings for religious thought during this period. thought that sought to demonstrate the reasonableness of Christianity, the place of American theology within the larger European setting, the social location of theology in early America, and the special importance of the Calvinist traditions in the development of American theology. Broad in scope and deep in its insights, this book acquaints us with the full chorus of voices that contributed to theological conversation in America's early years.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this majestic achievement, Holifield (Emory University) provides a first-rate, richly evocative and unrivaled history of theology in America. With graceful prose and measured historical analysis, he traces the development of American theology from the 17th century to 1865, examining the major themes that emerged during these crucial years. He examines early American theology's grounding in Calvinism, emphasis on practicality and ethics, denominational setting, ongoing conversation with European theology, and division between academic and populist strands. Holifield contends that the defining mark of theologians in early America was their shared interest in the reasonableness of Christianity. Carefully attentive to the theological movements of these times, he observes the ways that the interest in a rational theology derived from a variety of sources, including English natural philosophy, deism and Scottish Common Sense Realism. In particular, Holifield sketches the disposition toward rational theology from the Puritans through the various denominational movements of the 18th century and on to the resistance to reasonableness in 19th-century theologians such as Orestes Brownson. Throughout this marvelous study, Holifield provides accounts of major and minor theologians, ranging from Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards to the Quaker Elias Hicks and the African-American preacher Jupiter Hammon. The sketches of Edwards and Horace Bushnell are alone worth the price of the book. This masterfully narrated, splendid book will become the definitive study of the development of American theology. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Holifield (American church history, Emory Univ.; The Covenant Sealed) offers a study of the development of theology in the United States that recognizes the various strands of Christianity and how they influenced one another in what he calls a community of discourse. Beginning with the Calvinism of the Puritans, which he shows was not as monolithic as it is usually portrayed, he goes on to treat the other major and minor sects of Christianity that took root in the United States up through the Civil War. Holifield is a master of his material and brings to it a rare depth of unbiased understanding. A noteworthy chapter on Catholic converts Orestes Brownson and Isaac Hecker as "transcendental Catholics" illustrates just how much mutual influence there was among the various Christian sects. Mark A. Noll's magisterial History of Christianity in the United States and Canada is pretty much limited to Protestant sects. Holifield's work provides a helpful context for the texts in A Documentary History of Religion in America: To the Civil War, edited by Edwin S. Gaustad. Highly recommended for all but the smallest collections.-Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This is without doubt the best survey of antebellum American theology in print. While making an outstanding contribution to historical studies in theology, Holifield (Emory Univ.) has enriched the broader study of American intellectual history. Holifield identifies recurrent themes in this period, such as the quest for theological rationality across traditions and the tendency to relate speculation to moral practice. Delineating each figure within broader cultural and philosophical contexts, he produces a richly detailed account based on exhaustive research. His painstaking study of "evidentialist Christianity" is particularly noteworthy, as is his coverage of "alternatives to Baconian theology" (part 3). Though Holifield includes more intuition-oriented thought such as that of Bushnell, he astutely observes the unrelenting concern for "reasonableness." Explicating the denominational constraints of antebellum theology from Unitarians and Episcopalians to Quakers and Methodists, Holifield splendidly balances elitist groups that valued formal education with populist movements that spurned "speculative" pursuits. This is a magisterial intellectual history that succeeds admirably in its inclusion of representative thought. A very important work for all academic libraries, this is an essential addition for theological libraries. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. B. W. Hamilton Northeastern Seminary